Ireland v Italy should be called off due to coronavirus, says health minister | Sport

The Six Nations fixture between Ireland and Italy in Dublin on 7 March should not take place due to the risk posed by the coronavirus, the health minister of Ireland has said.

China has reported 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths following the outbreak of the virus that has spread to a variety of countries, including Italy where authorities have swiftly put in restrictions. As a result, the Department of Health in Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team recommended the game should be postponed following a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

Football

Four Serie A games were postponed in Italy at the weekend, and are set to be played behind closed doors, including Inter v Sampdoria. Antonio Conte’s side will also play their Europa League tie against Ludogorets at an empty San Siro on Thursday.

As it stands, Lyon’s Champions League first-leg tie with Juventus in France on Wednesday is expected to go ahead, with fans able to attend.

Domestic leagues in China, Japan and South Korea are suspended, with AFC Champions League and World Cup qualifiers behind closed doors.

Rugby union

Ireland’s Six Nations game with Italy in Dublin on 7 March, and England’s trip to Rome on 14 March, are both in doubt. Italy’s Women’s Six Nations match against Scotland on Sunday was postponed.

In the Pro14, Ospreys’ trip to face Zebre in Parma, and Ulster’s visit to Benetton Treviso have been called off.

Formula One

The Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled to take place in Shanghai in mid-April, has been postponed and is likely to be replaced by a race in another country. There are also fears over the Vietnam GP early that month, while Ferrari have restricted access to the team HQ in Italy.

Other sports

Athletics: The world indoor athletics championships, set to take place in Nanjing in March, will now be held in the Chinese city in 2021.

Golf: PGA, LPGA and European Tour events in China, Thailand and Singapore have been postponed. 

Olympics: The 2020 Games in Tokyo is still scheduled to go ahead as planned, from 24 July to 9 August.

Tennis: April’s WTA Xi’an Open has been cancelled. China have forfeited their Davis Cup tie with Romania as they are unable to travel.

Updated 25 February


Photograph: Kaz Photography/Getty Images AsiaPac

“The very clear view of the public health emergency team was that this game should not go ahead and that it would constitute a significant risk, because a very large number of people will be travelling from what is now an affected region,” the Irish health minister, Simon Harris, told RTE news. “So my department will be contacting the IRFU [Irish Rugby Football Union] in relation to this.

“I know [it will] cause a great disappointment to many, but it is important to make decisions in relation to public health above and beyond all other considerations.”

In response the IRFU released a statement calling for an urgent meeting with Harrison in order to get the “specific reasoning behind calling for the cancellation of the Ireland v Italy fixture in the context of the Government’s overall travel policy to and from Italy and other affected countries.”

It continued: “Until such time as the IRFU has had contact with the Minister and gets an understanding of the government’s strategic policy on travel to and from Ireland and the cancellation of mass gatherings, it is not in a position to comment further.”


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